If you are anything like me, you feel like you have been hard-wired to put others before yourself.
Come on, be honest.
Maybe you skip lunch here and there to meet with someone in need.
Maybe you minimize your feelings of exhaustion and stress to press on to serve the greater cause.
Maybe you push yourself to lift others up to the point where your body is screaming at you to stop.
Yes… that is why you are experiencing headaches, colds, indigestion and insomnia.
And the crazy thing is if you were to hold back even a little bit to tend to your own needs, there is this crashing wave of guilt and failure.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before.
“I’m not working hard enough”
“I’m disappointing someone”
It feels as if unless you are giving until you collapse you are not working enough or giving enough.
Exhaustion seems to be the badge of honour for being a caregiver or pastor, doesn’t it?
“I just don’t know what to do pastor. I can’t sleep, I’m distracted all the time and I feel like I get angry at everything. What’s wrong with me?”
Kathy sits in your office wondering why she is not coping well. She shares with you that 6 months ago her mother moved in with them because dementia had progressed enough that she couldn’t live alone. And nursing homes were not a good fit.
As Kathy speaks you can see that the stress of caregiving 24/7 has taken its toll on her mentally, emotionally and physically.
You listen closely and encourage her.
“Well Kathy”, you say, “You are called to this work. Caring for your sick mother is an honour and there are a lot of other people in this community that are experiencing much harder circumstances. Imagine how your mother feels lonely, scared and out of control. Compared to your mother and others I’ve spoken to, your needs pale in comparison. Actually… perhaps you have some time to make a casserole for another church member in need, because at least you are healthy and able to do it. We are called to serve one another after all.”
Of course you wouldn’t say that.
Most likely you would listen to Kathy with compassion.
You’d focus on validating her feelings, acknowledging the difficult work of caregiving and offer support and guidance in creating boundaries, respite care and rest.
Isn’t it ironic that we can’t take our own advice when we are experiencing the same thing as Kathy?
You are exhausted from being available for caregiving to others 24/7.
Your health and sleep are compromised and the exhaustion is so overwhelming you have become numb.
Why do we minimize our experience compared to others and even tell ourselves we need to do more?
Why would it be okay for us to ignore all signs of burnout and overwhelm when we would care for others with compassion, understanding and support?
Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34 say that all who fear the Lord are able to walk in the peace and acceptance of God.
Did you hear that?? Fearing the Lord = acceptance and peace.
Acceptance isn’t conditional on how hard you work or how big your church is or how much you give to others.
Peace is available to you and is God’s intention for our lives.
In Exodus 18:17-18 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, speaks to Moses after watching him work from sunup to sundown. He affirms: “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”
It was unsustainable for Moses to work at the pace he was working.
Jethro’s wise counsel was to delegate responsibilities to others to allow Moses’ to carry out the work he was called to do.
Jethro continues, “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go in their place in peace.”
Recognize when you, as a caregiver or pastor, are worn out and drained.
When we continue to work while feeling this way it hurts ourselves, our families, our congregations and our communities.
But I’m sure you know that.
So, it’s time to take some of our own advice.
Listen compassionately, validate your feelings and seek out support.
When we push through working from sunup to sundown, as Moses did, we are not able to endure, the burden is too heavy and there will be no peace.
Take this quiz to identify how you measure in burnout and caregiving fatigue.